Priestley essays at the Ilkley Literature Festival

The distinguished panellists prepare to sign books:

Tom Priestley, Barry Cryer, Margaret Drabble, Kenneth Cranham, Valerie Grove

The new collection of Priestley essays – Grumbling at Large (Intro by Valerie Grove) – was showcased with a special note of celebrity  at a crowded meeting in the recent Ilkley Literature Festival, when our President and two Vice-Presidents (above) were joined by novelist Margaret Drabble and critic Valerie Grove in a second ‘launch’ of the finely produced slim volume. Each panellist did a reading or two from these essays. Tom chose ‘Critique of 1972’, deploring the state of the world in which we are all reduced to being ‘Consumers and not much else – surely the lowest view mankind has ever taken of itself.’  Margaret Drabble read ‘On the Moors’ (via Dick Hudson’s), and Barry Cryer from “Carless at Last”, to much laughter.  But if anyone stole the show, it was Ken Cranham with the first 1940 Postscript broadcast (5 June), on Dunkirk and the little steamers “which made an excursion to hell and came back glorious.”  He read with deep feeling, being himself all but moved to tears – what a tribute!  Later he gave us impromptu but in a quieter manner the Inspector’s wonderful final speech (photo below). Valerie spoke for many in saying: “Humanity had no better friend In the 20th century than JBP.”
It was a most memorable and enjoyable hour, followed by all the speakers dealing manfully with an immense queue of book-buyers in the adjoining Winter Gardens hall, appetites whetted by the readings.  Many Society members were present, but it was most encouraging to see the high level of interest shown by the general public, who all but sold out the 500-seater hall.

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